BWW Review: Family and Romance Tug at an Iowa Housewife in MADISON COUNTY

https://www.broadwayworld.com/charlotte/article/BWW-Review-Family-and-Romance-Tug-at-an-Iowa-Housewife-in-MADISON-COUNTY-20170928

BWW Review: Family and Romance Tug at an Iowa Housewife in MADISON COUNTY

BWW Review: Family and Romance Tug at an Iowa Housewife in MADISON COUNTY

When the touring production of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY came to Knight Theater in the spring of 2016, I can easily imagine CPCC Theatre set designer James Duke watching the rusticated wooden bridge as it descended from the fly loft. “We can do that!” he would be thinking to himself. And nearly 17 months later at Halton Theater, he has done it, in a spare, taciturn design style that works well with the Midwest – in this case, Iowa – ably complemented by Jeff Childs’ lighting design.

One additional inverted V goes a long way to simulating the lonely Johnson homestead where roaming National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid falls in love with Francesca, a stoically transplanted Italian housewife marooned on the prairie after raising a wholesome 4H family. Scenery pieces at ground level aren’t quite as mistakable for the touring version, largely because crew and cast shuffle them in and out of the wings with conspicuously less professional polish.

Once everything is set in place, the sound of the current CPCC Theatre production consistently overachieves. I can also imagine Rebecca Cook-Carter, CPCC Opera Theatre’s artistic director, looking at the touring version of MADISON COUNTY and saying, “We can do that!!” Look down in the orchestra pit at the Halton and you won’t find brass, woodwinds, and batteries of electric guitars and keyboards. Musicians are overwhelmingly classical string players, and their conductor, Craig Estep, has made valuable contributions to both theatrical and operatic productions at CP in the past.

In adapting the wildly popular bestseller by Robert James Waller, James Robert Brown’s score does occasionally soar toward opera in its ambitions when we listen to his melodies and orchestrations, both of which won Tony Awards. But there’s a very relaxed vibe to the roving photographer that contrasts with Francesca’s operatic frustrations, swooping toward chamber and country music. When the storyline detours toward the nosy neighbors and the raucous State Fair, velvety classical violins are likely to mutate into bluegrass fiddles.

If she hadn’t been on my radar in 2011, playing a supporting role in the CPCC Summer Theatre production of Hello, Dolly! I would have thought that Sarah Henkel was a genuine Italian neophyte as Francesca. Hand movements were shy, awkward, and clichéd at first when we looked at the opening wartime scene that tied Francesca’s fate to the uniformed Bud, who pales to humdrum farmer by the time we see him again in Iowa.

With Robert’s arrival, the shy awkwardness begins to work for Henkel, and as the couple’s intimacy increases, the fumbling and tentativeness dissolve, so there’s no longer a disconnect between Henkel’s actions and her soaring mezzo-soprano voice. I still missed a lot of the lyrics she was singing, but as passion took the place of preliminary exposition, that difficulty mattered much less. Compared with the virtually indecipherable Elizabeth Stanley on the national tour, Henkel was clarity itself.

Since I raved about Andrew Samonsky as the lanky dreamboat who captivated Francesca on tour, its no small compliment to say that Ryan Deal is nearly as fine as Robert. Deal may even be better at getting into the vagabond country lean of the music. As passionately as many local theatergoers might feel that he will never surpass his previous autumn exploits in Phantom of the Opera and Les Miz at the Halton, Deal delivers here, seemingly more comfortable in this music.

While Deal is not likely to be mistaken for a lean, rugged Marlboro man, the gap between him and Samonsky might have been bridged at least partially if Deal, along with director Cary Kugler and costume designer Rachel Engstrom, had seriously considered what a hippie looked like in 1965. To get instantly labeled as a hippie by a provincial Iowan, more hair and looser, more casual clothes are required. An untucked sport shirt just won’t do.

Politeness and consideration, mixed with a heavy sprinkling of artistic intensity, are also part of Robert’s appeal, and Deal conspires very nicely with Henkel on the chemistry of the mutual seduction. Looking at how Kugler directs and how Engstrom dresses the townsfolk, you will likely think that Marsha Norman borrowed heavily from Meredith Willson‘s Music Man in crafting the Iowans in her script.

Next door neighbors, Taffy Allen as Marge and Jeff Powell as Charlie, are exactly as you would expect. She’s unsatisfied unless she’s ferretted out every spec of scandalous gossip while, even when she’s most annoying, he can be mollified with a fresh slice of pie. Closer to the vortex of the central romance, Francesca’s family is humdrum rather than silly. Steven Martin as Bud, the husband, is a solid and confident blockhead, but we get the hint from Martin that some of his cocksureness comes from Francesca’s support.

Yet Bud is the primary reason that the kids need Mom. Gabe Saienni as Michael needs Mom to help him convince Dad that there is an alternative future for him that doesn’t include taking over the farm. Sharing the role with Olivia Aldridge from night to night, Leigh Ann Hrischenko convinces us that Carolyn’s needs are even more acute and poignant. Mom stands as buffer between Carolyn and her father’s brusqueness, and despite the fact that she may have raised a prize-winning steer, it’s Mom who must bolster the younger sib’s determination and self-confidence.

As the romance heats up, Francesca must choose between her inner drive to break free and globetrot with Robert or the tug of her loyalty, calling upon her to remain in Iowa with a family that needs her. After two hours and 18 minutes, plus a 20-minute intermission, you wouldn’t want the choice to be easy, would you?

CPCC Theatre Announces the Cast for The Crucible

CPCC Theatre is happy to announce the Tentative Cast List for  The Crucible.

 

Betty Parris……………………………………………………………………Melinda Harrison

Reverend Samuel Parris………………………………………………………….Cole Long

Tituba………………………………………………………………………………Corlis Hayes

Abigail Williams…………………………………………………………………Sarah Clifford

Susanna Walcott………………………………………………………………….Anna Young

Mrs. Ann Putnam……………………………………………………………Jerilyn McDonald

Thomas Putnam…………………………………………………………………Deevo Tindell

Mercy Lewis………………………………………………………………………Selina Lewis

Mary Warren………………………………………………………………Ashley Gildersleeve

John Proctor……………………………………………………………………..Josh Logsdon

Rebecca Nurse…………………………………………………………………Deborah Rivers

Giles Corey……………………………………………………………………Tom Ollis

Reverend John Hale…………………………………………………………Tony Wright

Elizabeth Proctor……………………………………………………………..Caryn Crye

Francis Nurse………………………………………………………………Richard Meier

Ezekiel Cheever………………………………………………………………Jared Tuton

John Willard…

Martha Cory……………………………………………………………………Iris DeWitt

Judge Hathorne……………………………………………………………Richard Thompson

Deputy-Governor Danforth…………………………………………………….Tim Huffman

Sarah Good…………………………………………………………………………Iris DeWitt

Thanks to everyone who auditioned. We hope to see you at Evita audition’s in December. Tickets on sale now at the SunTrust Box office 704-330-6534 or online at CPCCTix.

CPCC Theatre Auditions for The Crucible

Auditions for The Crucible

September 11 & 12 7:00pm Pease Auditorium

CPCC Theatre will hold auditions for The Crucible on September 11 & 12 at 7:00pm in Pease Auditorium.

CPCC Theatre is proud to bring Arthur Miller’s classic American play The Crucible to the Pease stage. Winner of the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play. This exciting drama about the Puritan purge of witchcraft in old Salem is both a gripping historical play and a timely parable of our contemporary society.  “The devil has returned to Broadway with the power to make the strong tremble. Be afraid, be very afraid.”  The N Y Times

Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script. No appointment necessary. Performances are October 27 – November 5. Rehearsal will begin on Thursday September 14th. Our normal rehearsal process is Monday through Thursday evenings 7pm to 10pm. You do not have to be a current CPCC Student to audition. All ethnicities are encouraged to audition.

All roles are open. We are seeking 10 women 16 to 60 + and 11 men 18 to 60+.

Cast of Characters:

Ages are listed as approximate. If you are in the general age RANGE or can play a

particular age, please audition. Often the ages of characters are adjusted (within

reason) when we are casting these shows.

 

John Proctor (Approximately 30-40) Honest farmer forced to defend his wife and

himself against witchcraft charges. While his wife was ill, he succumbed to

temptation and was intimate with Abigail Williams, a beautiful but malevolent 17-

year-old. Although Proctor later rejects Abigail and admits his wrongdoing to his

wife, Abigail continues to pursue him.

 

Elizabeth Proctor (Approximately late 20’s-30’s) John Proctor’s loyal and upright

wife. She comes to realize that she may have been partly at fault for her husband’s

unfaithfulness because she was not always as warm and loving as she could have

been.

 

Rev. Samuel Parris (Approximately 40’s) Salem’s current minister. A faction in his

congregation is attempting to replace him. He at first attempts to silence rumors

of witchcraft because his own daughter, Betty, and his niece, Abigail Williams,

were involved in conjuring rites. However, he later vigorously supports the witch

trials when he sees that they will work to his advantage.

 

Betty Parris (Approximately 10-15) Daughter of the Rev. Parris. At the beginning of

the play, she lies in a stupor supposedly caused by witchcraft.

 

Abigail Williams (Approximately late teens) Seventeen-year-old orphan whose

parents were killed by Indians. She lives with her uncle, the Rev. Parris, and

his daughter, Betty. In a conjuring rite in the forest, where Abigail and other

girls dance wildly around a cauldron, Abigail drinks rooster blood in attempt to

summon spirits to kill Elizabeth Proctor. Mrs. Proctor had fired Abigail from

her job as a servant at the Proctor farm because Abigail seduced her husband.

 

Tituba (Approximately 40’s – African-American) Slave of the Rev. Parris. The

minister brought her to Salem from Barbados, where she learned occult practices.

She presides at a conjuring session involving teenage and adolescent girls from

Salem.

 

Thomas & Ann Putnam (Approximately 40’s) Wealthy husband and wife who use

the witchcraft frenzy to implicate rivals and enemies.

 

Rev. John Hale (Approximately 40’s) Expert in detecting spirits. Well educated, he

takes pride in his knowledge of the occult, but he is fair-minded. Although he first

believes townspeople may be practicing witchcraft, he later defends accused

persons, in particular Mr. and Mrs. Proctor.

 

Rebecca Nurse (Approximately 60’s-70s) Charitable Salem resident whom Ann

Putnam accuses of witchcraft.

 

Mary Warren (Approximately late teens) Eighteen-year-old servant of the Proctors

who took part in the conjuring rite in the forest. She first agrees to testify against

Abigail and the others. But, under pressure from her peers and the court, she

renounces her testimony and sides with Abigail.

 

Deputy Governor John Danforth (Approximately 60’s) Presiding judge who conducts

the witchcraft hearings and trials. He admits spectral evidence (testimony of

witnesses who believe they saw townspeople in the presence of the devil) but

refuses to accept a deposition presented by John Proctor. The deposition, signed

by Mary Warren, is intended as evidence that could lead to the exoneration of

Elizabeth Proctor and others.

 

John Hathorne (Approximately 40’s-60’s) Associate Judge.

 

Giles Corey (Approximately 70’s-80’s) Innocent citizen accused of witchcraft after

he attempts to defend his wife, Martha, and expose scheming John Putnam. A

courageous 83-year-old who defies the court, he is pressed to death with heavy

stones. Martha Corey is hanged.

 

Mercy Lewis (Approximately late teens) Teenage servant of the Proctors who took

part in the conjuring rite in the forest.

 

Susanna Walcott (Approximately late teens) Teenager who took part in the rite

in the forest.

 

Sarah Good (Approximately 60+) Poor, homeless woman accused of witchcraft.

 

Francis Nurse: 70 – 85. A wealthy, influential man in Salem. Nurse is well respected by most people in Salem, but is an enemy of Thomas Putnam and his wife.

 

Ezekiel Cheever: 30 – 60. Clerk of the Court

Hopkins. A guard at Salem Jail.

 

For questions or information contact Tom Hollis by email tom.hollis@cpcc.edu or call 704-330-6835.